Australian retail industry's peak bodies seal merger agreement for the ‘greater good’

Australian retail industry's peak bodies seal merger agreement for the ‘greater good’

Photo credit: Opollo Photography, via Unsplash

After several years toying with the idea, Australia’s peak retail bodies have firmed up plans to merge in a bid to provide a single voice for the $420 billion sector amid growing challenges faced by the industry.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and the National Retail Association (NRA) have signed a formal heads-of-agreement to join forces and have immediately begun collaborating in a move they say is for the “greater good” of the industry and the economy.

“The ARA has been on a mission to unify the industry in recent years and today’s announcement is the result of significant discussions over time between our two organisations,” says ARA president Nicole Sheffield.

“It makes absolute sense to create one voice for retail, and to combine our strengths to support the growth of this vital sector which employs one in 10 Australians.

“Whilst the resilience of retailers has been second to none in recent years, the headwinds we face as a sector have never been more challenging - from supply chain challenges and retail crime to sustainability outcomes and the rise of artificial intelligence.

“Joining forces for the good of our industry is an obvious win for all parties.”

The ARA has about 7,500 retail members with more than 100,000 retail shop fronts, while the NRA is described as Australia’s most representative retail industry organisation servicing more than 39,000 stores and shopfronts nationally.

NRA chair Tim Schaafsma says the combined strengths of the two organisations will elevate the impact of the sector to the benefit of all Australians.

“Retail contributes enormously to our country’s economic success and social wellbeing and a strong retail sector is in the interests of all Australians,” says Schaafsma.

“Our two organisations are aligned in our focus, and we come together in the spirit of doing what’s in the best interests of our retail community.

“There’s great strength in numbers and we are confident our members and the sector as a whole will appreciate and embrace this progression towards a unified voice for retail.”

Schaafsma says the merged entity will “truly represent the whole Australian retail sector, irrespective of size, segment or geographic location”.

“In the meantime, we look forward to working together on a range of collaborative ventures in the coming months as we take active steps towards the proposed amalgamation,” he says.

Retail is the second largest industry in Australia, with 1.2 million employees, and is the biggest employer of women and youth.

The peak bodies, both of which are not-for-profit organisations, must still formalise their amalgamation application to the Fair Work Commission.

In the meantime, they plan to collaborate “where it makes sense” on joint advocacy work within priority areas such as retail crime, which costs the industry billions a year, as well as retail trading hours and the industry application to vary the General Retail Industry Awards.

The organisations say that it will be “business as usual” ahead of a new framework being announced for the proposed merged entity.

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